El Nino to bring less rain and more heat for SA: 5 things you need to know

South Africa is likely to experience a delay in rainfall patterns this summer. Temperatures are also expected to be higher than normal.

This is according to Edward Engelbrecht, forecaster at the South African Weather Service (SAWS).

In July, the SAWS forecast a 70% chance of an El Nino occurrence from mid-spring into summer.

READ: Weather Update: Heatwave gripping large parts of SA to extend into the weekend

Engelbrecht told News24 that the current heatwave has nothing to do with El Nino and is normal for this time of year.

What is El Nino?

According to the SAWS website, El Nino is the warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean which influences atmospheric circulation, and consequently rainfall and temperature in specific areas around the world.

How does this affect SA?

"It causes below normal rainfall in summer rainfall areas and higher than normal temperatures from December to February," explained Engelbrecht. "It occurs mostly in the northeastern parts of the country. There will definitely be above normal [high] temperatures in the northern parts of South Africa." 

This is because sea temperatures rise, which makes the air more dry and humid, influencing hotter weather patterns.

Where the name comes from

According to the SAWS, El Nino is translated from Spanish as the boy child.

Peruvian anchovy fishermen traditionally used the term – a reference to the Christ child – to describe the appearance of a warm ocean current off the South American coast around Christmas.

Over the years the term El Nino has come to be reserved for the sequence of changes in atmospheric circulation across the Pacific Ocean and Indonesian archipelago when warming is particularly strong.

The El Nino events affecting the world

Approximately 14 El Nino events affected the world between 1950 and 2003. Among them was the 1997/98 event, by many measures the strongest thus far this century, although South Africa escaped its impact to some extent.

What about SA's current heatwave?

Engelbrecht said the current heatwave that South Africa is experiencing is "nothing abnormal".  

"We have a fairly strong high-pressure system that has been persistent for the last few days. But it's fairly normal in terms of variations in our climate."

In the tweet below, the SAWS lists precautions to be taken during heat wave conditions. 

South Africans took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the heatwave. 

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